Sustainability Criteria Explained

The sustainability criteria icons on MAVOLU were designed by Ottavia Pasta and are used to rate each product’s impact within the supply chain and user phase. In addition to that, they aim to simplify your shopping experience when you are looking for specific items only (e.g. vegan products). By clicking on each icon on the sustainability criteria page you are able to filter for your specific values. Some of these icons are fairly obvious, while others might need some more clarification. You can therefore also find a more in depth description of each of them below:

 

 

Unlike synthetic fibres, natural fibres for the textile industry are usually derived from plants or animals. Plant based fibres can be extracted from the stem (e.g. banana), the leaves (e.g. pineapple), or the seeds (e.g. cotton) of a plant. Silk and wool on the other hand are two of the most common examples for animal fibres.

While man-made fibres like polyester are often more durable, cheaper to produce and have improved mechanical properties (e.g. less tendency to shrink or wrinkle), their production heavily relies on the use of petroleum. Natural fibres on the other hand usually show higher levels of moisture absorbance and breathability compared to synthetic fibres. In addition to that, natural fibres are renewable and biodegradable if they haven’t been chemically treated.

With that said, natural fibres don’t automatically have less of an environmental impact than synthetic ones - conventional cotton for example has an exceptionally high water usage compared to other fibres. There are however some well-known as well as newly emerging natural fibres that are resource saving and comprise great mechanical properties at the same time; examples for those are organic cotton, hemp, ramie, banana fibre and pineapple fibre. More information on these fibres can also be found in the material library.

The world’s population is growing at a fast rate, and the consumption of natural resources like water, oil and land is immense. As a result, our resources are becoming scarce. In order to minimise the use of natural resources within the textile industry, there has been more and more research into fibre creation from ‘waste’ material over the past years. As a result, some companies have now managed to successfully create fibres and materials from agricultural by-products. One of the most well-known materials is Piñatex, a non-woven mesh created from the leaves of the pineapple plant. Since the leaves are considered a by-product of the food industry, no additional land or water are used in order to grow them. Other examples for fibre creation from waste are banana fibre production (made from the pseudostem of the banana plant) and soy fibre production (a by-product from tofu production and soy processing). More information on these fibres can be found in the blog.
There’s a huge variety of different certifications for the textile industry, which can often lead to confusion and makes it difficult for consumers to know which ones to trust. One of the best known and most reliable certifications is the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). Unlike many other certifications, the Global Organic Textile Standard makes sure that regulations are adhered to throughout the entire manufacturing process - from the initial fibre production to the finished garment. Cocccon is a great example for a company that produces GOTS certified peace silk - not only are they ensuring a cruelty-free silk manufacturing free from the use of chemicals, but have also created hundreds of fair paid jobs in the rural area of Jharkhand. In addition to that the peace silk scarves from Folklorica are also ethically produced in Southern India and entirely GOTS certified.

As mentioned before, we are currently using up our natural resources at an alarming rate. This, in combination with the growing world population, leads to an increasing scarcity of resources such as water and oil. In regards to the textiles industry, there are several options to become less dependent on natural resources. One of the most obvious ones is the use of recycled fibres instead of virgin fibres. Recycled polyester and regenerated nylon (such as Econyl) e.g. only use approximately half of the resources needed for the production of virgin polyester or virgin nylon.

Fibre creation from agricultural ‘waste’ is another great option to reduce the use of water, land and energy needed for the textiles industry. Some examples of those can be found in the "from waste to value" section above and in the material library.

Not only since the disaster at Rana Plaza do we know that garment workers are often enduring unsafe working conditions, are paid unfair wages, have to work an excessive amount of overtime, and are denied basic rights such as the formation of unions. Yet, with the mayhem of Christmas shopping and the temptation of Black Friday deals it’s easy to forget about all these issues. But mindless overconsumption is directly linked to bad working conditions, and if we don’t change our buying habits then the working conditions will likely just remain the same.

Fortunately there is a growing amount of sustainable brands which place great value on fair working conditions and ethical production. Each brand on MAVOLU either produces their own products locally (e.g. Eve & Adis) or ensures that their items are produced under good conditions and that their workers are getting paid fairly. You can find the full list of all labels here.

In our globalised world it has never been easier to outsource production overseas where labour cost is cheap. This can however also make it more difficult for companies to keep track of working conditions and the adherence to regulations. Local production on the other hand doesn’t only offer more transparency, but it also supports local craftsmanship and reduces carbon emissions due to shorter transport ways.

Labels like Marina Kleist show that it is indeed possible to keep the whole supply chain local. All the materials for her cork bags are sourced from Europe and the bags themselves are produced in the Netherlands. If you want to find out more about the label and Marina’s background you can also find a short interview with her here.

Veganism is no longer only relevant in terms of food, but is also becoming increasingly important within the fashion industry. The number of designers and brands who decide to work entirely without the use of animal products (e.g. leather, fur, wool or silk) is growing, with labels such as Artelusa creating beautiful accessories from cork, which are both sustainable and PETA approved vegan.

In addition to that, the research into vegan materials is bringing new and exciting developments to the market on a regular basis. Especially the area of vegan leather alternatives has seen some innovative and promising materials such as apple leather (Nuuwaï), Muskin (a material made from mushrooms), Malai, and of course Piñatex (a leather alternative made from pineapple fibre).

The majority of all fabrics and materials used for the products on MAVOLU are vegan, with the exception of peace silk. While peace silk counts as an animal product and is therefore not vegan, it is on the other hand produced in a cruelty-free way. Unlike in conventional silk production, the silk worms are not harmed and can emerge from their cocoons before those are processed into yarn.

The largest producer of GOTS certified peace silk is Cocccon, who's manufacturing is based in India. They ensure that every silk worm completes their metamorphoses before the cocoons are used for spinning.

If you want to find out more about conventional silk vs peace silk production, there’s an in-depth entry on the blog which describes the differences, advantages and disadvantages of both.

Clothing made from biodegradable fabrics are a great way to minimise our environmental impact. Untreated natural fibres such as organic cotton, hemp, peace silk and ramie are naturally compostable and will biodegrade after a relatively short amount of time. In addition to that, the Austrian company Lenzing have created two viscose-type fibres which are fully biodegradable. Their Tencel and Modal fabrics are produced from renewable cellulosic plants using an environmentally responsible production process. Both fibres are certified as compostable and biodegradable and can be integrated back into nature’s cycle after their use.

More clothing made from biodegradable fabrics can be found here.

The human skin is our largest organ and in touch with clothing for the majority of every day. Since some of the chemicals used during textile production stay in our clothes even after washing, they are consequently absorbed by our skin. The use of chemicals is however not always avoidable - certain chemicals are often necessary in order to e.g. transform cellulosic material into yarns and fabrics for the textiles industry. This includes viscose-type fabrics such as tencel, modal and bamboo. Other chemicals are needed for finishings, e.g. colouring, softness and wrinkle-resistance.

Certifications such as GOTS and Oeko TEX are very helpful when trying to find clothes and textiles that are entirely save for the human skin. More clothing and accessories made from natural fibres that have been processed without the use of chemicals can be found here.

Recycling plays an important role in the area of sustainability and helps to save valuable materials from ending up in landfills. One of the main developments in the textiles industry within the past years has been the use of recycled polyester and regenerated nylon (e.g. Econyl). Unlike virgin polyester, which heavily relies on the use of petroleum, recycled polyester uses PET as its base material. PET is the same material which is used in clear plastic bottles, and recycling it into fabric minimises the amount that goes to landfills.

Econyl on the other hand is a regenerated nylon yarn from the Italian recycling company Aquafil. It is made using both post-consumer waste, such as discarded fishing nets, and pre-consumer waste in the form of fabric scraps. The waste is collected from around the world and is treated in Slovenia in a closed loop system into 100% regenerated and regenerable nylon.

You can find out more about recycled polyester and Econyl in the material library. All products that are either made with or from recycled materials or are fully recyclable after their use can be found here.

While regular recycling is often a downcycling process that turns the recycled material into products of lower value or functionality (e.g. turning used garments into building insulation or rags), the concept of circularity is to reuse regenerated resources without any loss in quality. Circular products can either be recycled as part of the tech cycle (e.g. made from recycled polyester), or can biodegrade as part of the bio cycle (e.g. made from natural materials such as organic cotton or silk). In order to ensure full recyclability it is important that the product is either made from monomaterial (e.g. 100% polyester) or can be easily disassembled into individual parts which are then sorted into tech- and bio-cycle. For the creation of circular products or garments it is therefore necessary to already have the end of life in mind during the design phase of the product or garment.

Illustrations © 2018 Ottavia Pasta

 


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